Ask MusicRadar: the results
The plug-in market is now almost ridiculously diverse, but even with so many instruments and effects available, a few of them still manage to stand out above their peers.
We asked you to name the plug-ins that you just couldn’t live without and, based on your votes, MusicRadar has compiled this list of 11 essentials. If there are any here that you haven’t yet tried, further investigation of them is highly recommended.
Next page: The 11 plug-ins you can’t live without
2CAudio reckons that Aether is an "ultimate fidelity auto-randomizing algorithmic reverb". We’ll just settle for saying that it sounds ruddy marvellous and can deliver the sense of ‘liquid spaciousness’ that you’d usually associate with a pricey hardware reverb. It’s good for special effects, too, and doesn’t impose the kind of massive CPU hit that you might think.
Native Instruments Guitar Rig 3
Whether it’s being employed in the cutdown form of Guitar Combos or the full-on Guitar Rig 3, NI’s amp and effects modelling technology is second to none. You can buy the software on its own or get it in a bundle with a pedal board/audio interface; whichever option you go for, excellent results are pretty much guaranteed.
Sylenth1 probably doesn’t deserve to be described as the plug-in world’s ‘best kept secret’ any more: these days, everybody knows how good it is. Yes, it’s ‘just’ a relatively simple virtual analogue subtractive synth, but once you hear it in action, you’ll quickly realise why everybody raves about it.
Camel Audio CamelPhat and CamelSpace
Released at the same time, these two processors are designed for phattening up your sound (CamelPhat) and creating a rhythmic texture out of pretty much anything you throw at it (CamelSpace). It’s the immediacy of these plug-ins that makes them so impressive – they work beautifully and are an enormous amount of fun to use.
Why would you want to spend your money on a delay plug-in when you’ve got one sitting in your rack of DAW effects? Timeless has a string of answers up its sleeve: it’s a tape-style delay that comes with a slew of sound-sculpting and advanced features. The recent version 2 update has only sweetened the deal further.
Focusrite Liquid Mix
Given that it’s a piece of hardware, you might be wondering what the Liquid Mix is doing on our list. However, its EQs and compressors are used as plug-ins, so we decided to let its votes count. Focusrite’s box of delights gives you 32 mono channels to play with (16 stereo), and those who buy one tend to find that they use it every project they work on.
IK Multimedia SampleTank 2
It’s been around for years, but SampleTank remains an excellent choice for anyone who wants an easy-to-use workhorse module that contains a mighty collection of useful sounds. You can tweak these to an extent, but this is a plug-in for those who want to spend more time making music than tinkering with their software.
The Audio Damage collection
It’s testament to the quality of Audio Damage’s range that many users would find it hard to favour one of its plug-ins over the others, so we’ll just recommend the whole lot to you here. Don’t go thinking that you’ll only be able to afford one or two of the company’s processors, either: sensible pricing is just one of the reasons why they’re so popular.
Native Instruments Kontakt 3
Software samplers aren’t exactly thin on the ground, so it’s to NI’s credit that, despite several serious rivals, Kontakt has managed to become something of an industry-standard. In fact, this might just be the most powerful sampler ever created, and the version 3.5 update that’s just been released is only going to make it better.
u-he Zebra 2
A ‘wireless’ modular that utilises a number of different synthesis techniques, Zebra 2 is an absorbing software instrument that its owners call on time and time again. There’s a terrific library of presets to get you started, but those who choose to explore deeper will be even more richly rewarded. If you haven’t tried it yet, download the demo today.
PSP Audioware VintageWarmer 2
The specs say that this essential plug-in is a single- or multi-band compressor/limiter, but speak to the many producers who use it and they’ll probably just tell you that it can improve the sound of just about anything you throw at it. If you want to give your music some analogue warmth, there’s no better or easier solution.